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Throwback Thursday - The Good Wife - Death of A Client

3 Jun 2021

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We were good together. Weren't we?

The Emmy nominated The Good Wife has been off the air for over five years and while in some ways that is hard to imagine, in others, Executive Producers Robert and Michelle King haven't yet skipped a beat and whose work only seems to get better with age.

They continue to be one of the most topically relevant producers working in the TV industry today with spin-off The Good Fight still going strong into season five and with breakout horror drama Evil catching the attention of viewers whom have never laid eyes on the Kings before.

But so much of their success comes from what they were willing to experiment with on The Good Wife. It's not really until the Kings and Co. started hitting close to the halfway point that the show was really beginning to experiment with episode format, tone, filming technique, and genre and when the show began to become more and more serialized, despite also having episodic aspects built in.

Death of the Client is one of my favorite episodes, because it's an episode that really tries to do a lot of these things and is ultimately successful.

The episode starts off with an extended scene from where the last episode left off. Alicia and Peter were invited to party where a Catholic Cardinal could essentially make or break Peter's ongoing political career, as he needs Catholic voters. Peter finds himself up against political opponent Mike Krestiva, the super liar whose extremely determined to make Peter look bad, --a character that ultimately comes to represent the worst attributes that many will come to associate with Trump-era politics.

Diane Lockhart and Will Gardner are also at this event. This is after Alicia and Will had decided to call their romantic affair quits, as Alicia had decided to try again with Peter, and Diane chastened Will for his behavior. Will and Laura Hellinger are also on the verge of becoming an item, as they have faced each other a lot in court recently...

Soon enough there is call informing Will, Diane, and Alicia that one of their bigger clients, Matthew Ashbaugh had been murdered. Alicia then rushes to the police station for questioning.

When Alicia gets there she is also informed that who ever had murdered Matthew Ashbaugh had GPS tracking set up in their car and was headed for Alicia's apartment!


Oh, and of course, it also happens to be St. Patrick's day! So when Alicia calls to find her mother at the apartment with the kids and asks her to take them to her hotel room, the outside world of Chicago looks like drunken mayhem (of course it doesn't help that Veronica has been drinking already) and she and the kids end up hanging out in bar where Veronica ends up blurting out some information that makes the kids incredibly uncomfortable and for Grace, potentially life-changing.

Back at the precinct Laura Hellinger turns up working the prosecutor's case. The cops try hard to get Alicia to spill any information she can on Matthews many many enemies. The episode then begins to play out in series of flashbacks, ones that are intertwined with both scenes of Ashbaugh (and really his affections for Alicia) and that of Alicia's and Will's steamy love affair.

At one point though, Alicia overhears the cops talking about an Eddy Lowmax. This gives Kalanda a bit more to go on, although she figures out pretty quickly that the cops are lying about the threat placed on Alicia and her family, when the car the alleged suspect was driving didn't have a GPS tracking in that make and year!! The episode then starts to touch on an ongoing theme of police corruption (something that is more heavily looked at in The Good Fight). Will too eventually goes to the station to protect Alicia, where she quietly laments with him on their past, while also where Laura Hellinger wants to ask Alicia, if she should ask Will out, making everything kind of salty, although Laura feels like child not privy to a more adult conversation and ultimately a third wheel, despite that Alicia supports her choice and Will and Laura go on to date...

But what I love most about the episode, besides of course having John Noble guest star as the infectious and lively Asbaugh, is how the episode is actually filmed.

I'm also a pretty big fan of Alfred Hitchcock features and much of that has to do with a combination of the way he creates suspense in his thrillers, his particular aesthetics, and the way he frames some of his characters.

In season four of The Good Wife, I started to notice the way cinematography started framing some it's characters too, most particularly Alicia. It is quite similar, if not identical to many of Hitchcock's films such as The Birds or Vertigo. But Death of a Client is an episode where this is the most obvious. And because of the murder mystery crime story aspect, and because Julianna Margulies has an air about her that is reminiscent to golden age of Hollywood divas, along with the drunken funny-scary atmospheric combo of St. Patties Day and Police Station as a set piece, much of the episode feels like one big tribute to Hitchcock.

It also doesn't hurt that John Noble was the one shot guest star, once again playing a fanatical 'mad man' and using the character's obsession with Johann Sebastian Bach as a quirky musical transition to most of the flashback sequences, allowing the episode to blend the contemporary with the past through the portable music-player that Matthew passes onto Alicia. Noble and the music player also servers as a kind of 'mindless levity' that is part of what keeps the episode from completely sinking into a full suspense thriller and adds it's own kind of metaphor for where Alicia's mind also once was when she was with Will, as she struggles to remember certain details about Matthew and his cases/complaints. In terms of The Good Wife's own story, this is also an episode that marks a transition to Alicia's decent, as she is reminded of her feelings for Will and just how much that actually scares her.

In terms of Kings' work, this is one of the first episodes that has some serious surrealism to it, existing somewhere between an atmospheric suspense-almost-horror-thriller and satire. In some ways one can almost see the construct of Evil's first season too, given that part of the episode deals with Peter, Mike Krestiva, a member of the Catholic Church, a forbidden romance, and where Alicia is remembering that she committed adultery and is focusing on that sexual attraction. How many men are perhaps "tempted" by her. Or how she loves someone else, but is too scared to do anything about it, --in the right way (and right now all Evil fans are wondering about Kristen's soul, given we don't know if she did what we think she did). But even The Good Fight takes a lot of ques or subtext from The Good Wife, as the first four seasons are really about a moral decay or descent that Reddick, Bosman, and Lockhart fall into... 

The episode ends with Alicia coming back to the party, where the Veronica and kids were told by Alicia to meet her. Alicia talks with the Cardinal briefly, before Eli informs her of what "happened" to Mike Krestiva (Peter punches him in the bathroom and makes it look like Mike has a drinking problem. Something Kristeva totally deserves). Alicia then finds Peter near the bar. And like always, Peter doesn't really ask much about what was going on with their client, but instead the two dance as if nothing is wrong, as if Alicia wasn't awakened to her deeper feelings again.

Death of A Client was directed by Robert King and written by both Robert & Michelle King.